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This review is taken from PN Review 175, Volume 33 Number 5, May - June 2007.

TWO CALENDARS John Clare: The Shepherd's Calendar, edited with an introduction by Tim Chilcott (Carcanet) £14.95

I can date accurately my first acquaintance with John Clare's Shepherd's Calendar. It was 1963, in my first year as a PhD student in the English Department at Manchester University, and a young and rather fiery scholar was giving a bibliography seminar on the editing of John Clare. He brought along offprints of his recent article on 'John Taylor's editing of Clare's The Shepherd's Calendar' which had been published in 1963 in the Review of English Studies, and proceeded to demonstrate the sins of both Taylor and the Tibbles in their editing of one of Clare's major poems. It was Eric Robinson and this was the period when he and Geoffrey Summerfield were beginning their revolutionising of the editing of Clare. Their scrupulous exactness in presenting exactly what Clare wrote set a new tradition in Clare editing. It is instructive to look back at the way that the movement to the so-called 'primitive' text which they inaugurated and which underlies the nine-volume Clarendon Press edition is now being questioned, built on and superseded. It had its vital function and effect in helping to identify, establish and popularise Clare, but the trend now is to a more complex view where, as Chilcott says in his first paragraph, 'poetic texts, far from being fixed and definitive, are often fluctuating and uncertain'.

Chilcott inscribes this uncertainty in his edition. We are presented with not one but two versions of the poem, ...


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